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The Chicagoist Guide to Lollapalooza: Sans Gimmicks

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 3, 2006 7:56PM

2006_07_flaminglipspanda.jpgIt’s funny how the granddaddy of “weirdo-festivals” is now, for all intents and purposes, a secured bastion of the establishment. We still remember the very first Lollapalooza and the feeling that “we” were on the verge of winning the cultural war through music. We were, unfortunately, correct, and we’ve been paying for it ever since as Madison Avenue keeps packaging and re-packaging that which we hold dear in order to sell us an edgy new brand of Fig Newtons.

That’s the pessimist in us venting. Luckily, this weekend, we’re allowing our inner optimist to run rampant. That’s because while now Lollapalooza may have more baby strollers than skateboards, Perry Farrell is still at the helm, and he seems to be trying to oversee as eclectic a bill as he can. So with that in mind, along with our acknowledgment of Farrell’s excellent judgment in choosing Chicago as the now-stationary three-day festival’s home, we would like to point out some of the weekend’s expected musical highlights. This isn’t some lame Band A versus Band B list (for the most part), or an hour by hour rundown of the schedule; instead we would just like to share a few of our own picks for the best bets to leave an impression after the stakes have pulled up and the fest has left town late Sunday night.

2006_07_thesubways.jpgOn Friday we plan on greeting the opening gates and popping on over to the BMI stage to catch local power poppers The Bon Mots. Their bright and sunny songs are the perfect way to kick off the three-day weekend and put everyone in a jovial frame of mind. After them we plan on seeing the blistering youthful ambition of The Subways' Oasis-meets-Nirvana tunes. Cursive plays later, and we’re hoping they’ll be previewing a load of new material off their excellent forthcoming album Happy Hollow (and yes, we’ve heard it and love it). After their impassioned attack we look forward to The Eels cooling things down with their folk / funk / punk / orch-pop. Hopefully they’re solved that whole sound-bleed problem so Panic! At The Disco’s tuneless wailing from the one of the other stages doesn’t ruin the show for us. Afterwards we plan on splitting our time between the so-Interpol-they’re better-than-Interpol Editors and the lush electronic pop of Stars. We’re going to skip The Secret Machines – since we plan on catching them at The Darkroom later that night anyway – and will try and jostle ourselves a decent spot for Brendan Benson and Jack White’s side-project, The Raconteurs. We hope they cover Gnarls Barkley’s summer anthem “Crazy” again. If not we can just catch Gnarls themselves the next day.

And then we’re seeing Sleater-Kinney’s final Chicago performance. It is the one (well, maybe second) can’t-miss set of the whole weekend.

2006_07_peepingtom.jpgSaturday sees more bratty youthfulness from Be Your Own Pet on the early side. Mike Patton’s Peeping Tom, a last minute addition, is sure to be interesting though we do warn that it could misfire. We enjoyed the album, but his television appearances thus far display too much of the lounge lizard and too little of Patton’s fractured genius. Wolfmother’s set shouldn’t be missed either; they’re been playing their fair share of outdoor festivals so we predict that they’ve figured a way to create the appropriate amount of bombast to accompany their ‘70s-inflected boogie-rock. Afterward The Smoking Popes are sure to turn in a solid, if predictable, set.

Now we feel bad for hometown hero Common, but we’ll be missing his set. Why? Because he’s up at the same time as The Flaming Lips, and if you miss The Flaming Lips you'll be missing the one "sure thing" and/or “can’t miss” set of the whole weekend. We’ve been taking in their live shows for well over a decade, and they have NEVER failed us. They ALWAYS impress.

After that the evening kind of peters out, but we’re sure The New Pornographers will deliver a serviceable set. Kanye West closes out our evening; however we admit we’re watching him more out of curiosity than anything else. Can he pull off a good show in a huge venue? We kind of doubt it.

2006_07_theholdsteady.jpgSunday is a more mellow affair, and we don’t even plan on showing up until 1:30 when NYC/MNPLS group The Hold Steady tears it up with lots of new material from their forthcoming album. After them we’ll probably kill some time with Ben Kweller’s harmless pop while yelling “Play a Radish song!” from the third row. Come to think of it, looking at the schedule, we’re going to have a lot of free time Sunday. We’ll split time between the electro-rock of The Assassins and the quirky indie-pop of The Shins. And then we have to make the most important choice of the weekend: Queens Of The Stone Age or Wilco? While we gave up on Tweedy and company after A Ghost Is Bown, adding Nels Cline to the line-up might be the first sane thing Jeff Tweedy’s done since he fired Jay Bennet. While we’re curious how they’ll do, we’re a bit concerned Tweedy will indulge his jammy tendencies and waste our time, so Queens Of The Stone Age are ultimately going to find us in their audience.

And we might just leave after that. We saw Broken Social Scene at last year’s Pitchfork Intonation Festival and can attest to the fact that they’re just not built for bigger venues. And while we do have a soft spot for The Red Hot Chili Peppers circa 1987, they haven’t done anything worthwhile or arresting since 1993 or so. Plus, we saw them at Lollapalooza the first time around. The only thing that might make us stick around is the fact we’ve never seen John Frusciante (the band’s only remaining musical genius) live and in person. Otherwise we might just call it a night at that point and take home only (hopefully) fond memories of the weekend.

Flaming Lips panda photo by Jen Carlson